Articles Posted in Indian River County

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The new year is quickly approaching, and thousands of Floridians have made plans or are starting to think about how to say goodbye to 2015 and ring in 2016.

But before you solidify your New Year’s Eve plans, fire officials have some tips for residents and visitors when it comes to fireworks.

“Anything that is projectile or leaves the ground is illegal in the State of Florida. Basically your safest bet is with a sparkler,” said Natalie McQueen, a Firefighter and Paramedic for the Panama City Beach Fire Department.

Even though sparklers are allowed in the Sunshine State, residents and visitors still need to exercise caution when using them.

Younger children should never light or handle sparklers. Parents should maintain a close watch on kids at all times if sparklers are going to be used. Burns are very common to the hands and face since sparklers do have flickers that come off once they are lit.

If you are using sparklers, after you are done with them, fire officials say to place them in a big bucket full of water, and let them sit overnight.

While setting off your own fireworks might seem fun, our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want to remind everyone that the best way to stay safe while ringing in the New Year is leaving the fireworks to the pros. If you are caught with fireworks in the State of Florida it could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Under Florida law, the use of or possession of illegal fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor. If you are accused of breaking this law, please be aware that you will be arrested. If you are convicted of this crime, you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail, given up to one year on probation, and/or fined up to one thousand dollars.

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Thanksgiving is a time of year when families get together to celebrate memories and honor traditions. However, this is also the time of year when law enforcement agencies gear up to catch drunk drivers on our roadways.

Most law enforcement agencies, receive federal grants to increase their staffing levels during the holiday season, which typically begins with the four-day Thanksgiving weekend and continues to New Year’s Day. Arrests for DUI are highest during this time period.

The following are a few tips that may prove helpful to avoid a Thanksgiving DUI:

  1. Do not drink and drive. If you have been drinking, call a cab, a friend or use a ride share app like Uber or Lyft to get home safe. If you know you will be drinking, designate a sober driver to take you home.
  2. If you are pulled over, do not talk to law enforcement about where you were or what you were doing. Remember, you have the right to remain silent until you have your lawyer present.
  3. If you are involved in an accident, stop immediately and remain at the scene. Do not admit to anything and request to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
  4. Do not fall asleep inside your vehicle. You could get arrested if the officer observes that you have the keys in the ignition or if the engine is running.
  5. Drive cautiously. Police will be closely monitoring motorists for any mistakes they make. In particular, they will be on the lookout for motorists who may be driving too fast or too slow, or running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs.

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You want to avoid getting arrested for DUI in Florida on New Year’s Eve and “becoming a statistic.” New Year’s Eve is a holiday that it is both cause for celebrating and relaxing. After the stress of getting ready for Christmas, people usually take this time to enjoy the end of the holiday season and contemplate their goals for the new year. However, because this is the last holiday of the year, there tends to be an increased number of people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Listed below are several tips to help drivers avoid a DUI this New Year’s Eve.

  1. Limit Drinks

If you are at a party that has an open bar, and you know you are driving, know exactly how many drinks you are having so that you can watch your personal limit. Remember that once you start drinking it can be difficult to stop yourself from having too many. Be mindful of the exact amount you have had to drink.

  1. Call a Cab or Uber or Lyft

Public transportation can save many people from DUI-related accidents and arrests. Save the number of a local cab company in your phone, use a ride share app on your phone or attend parties or social gatherings close to a bus route.

  1. 15958303240_5a5181cc2a_zDon’t Go Solo

Don’t go to a party or social gathering by yourself. Bring along at least one other friend and make sure to determine who the designated driver is for the entire group before any alcohol is consumed.

  1. Eat!

While many people have New Year’s resolutions about weight loss, New Year’s Eve is one of those nights where you should eat. Food fills the stomach, making less room for alcohol. Try to snack on foods like meats or dark chocolate, which are known to keep you fuller longer.

  1. Offer Alternative Drinks

If you are hosting a party, include “mocktails,” sodas, punch, or even just water on your drink menu.

  1. Make Accommodations for Guests

If you know your guests have a far trip ahead of them, arrange for them to stay with you or at a nearby hotel. That way, no one drives home drunk.

  1. Leave the Party Early

New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year. You can expect delays for taxis and other modes of public transportation, so be prepared. Leaving your party or social gathering early can also ensure that you get home safely and at a reasonable hour.

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Florida will have 159 new laws starting Tuesday that address various issues, including college tuition, corporate tax credits, abortions and sex offenders.

One of the most prevalent laws is one that aims to protect children and others from dangerous sex offenders. The laws are intended to keep the most violent sexual offenders locked up longer and close any loopholes in a law that allows the state to send predators to a high-security treatment center once they have served their time in prison. The new laws will subject more offenders to potential civil commitment and prosecutors, detectives and victim advocates will be part of the committee that reviews their cases.

The sexually violent predator package of bills was among the first of the legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott during the 60-day session that ended in May. The new laws are meant to create a better child welfare system in Florida. As of now, Florida is the only state in America that has a 50-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for violent sexual offenders.

gavelAnother law that seeks to protect children concerns the Department of Children and Families. The law changes how the department investigates and responds to cases; now placing a higher emphasis on shielding a child from abuse rather than focusing on keeping a family together. Moreover, the law also pays for 270 additional child protective investigators so that caseloads can be reduced and a response team can be sent out quickly to investigate child abuse deaths when the child had previous dealings with the system.

Another law will establish a statewide pilot program to pay for foster children’s driver’s education classes, license fees and car insurance so that they can be better prepared to gain employment when they turn 18 and leave the system.

The children of immigrants in the country illegally will now be able to receive in-state tuition at state universities after Scott changed his position on the issue. Another bill will give tuition breaks to honorably discharged veterans as well as waive professional licensing fees for them.

Local school boards now have the responsibility of selecting textbooks, whether or not they are on a state-adopted list, and will be required to put policies in place that allow parents to object to the books they choose.

Another new law took effect on June 20 that expands a voucher program, giving corporate tax credits to companies that provide money for low-income families to send their children to private schools.

As far as criminal laws go, there will be increased penalties for spiny lobster poachers, people leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury and people who illegally sell prescription drugs. Additionally, electronic cigarette sales to minors are now illegal in Florida. Another law forbids sending text messages soliciting products to residents on the state’s “no sales solicitation calls” list.

Florida has also changed its definition for its late-term abortion ban. Abortions will be illegal in Florida at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy if her doctor concludes that the fetus could survive outside the womb. The previous law banned abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. An exception can be made to this law if the mother’s life is at risk.

Lastly, new laws will create a Florida Tourism Hall of Fame and the position of state poet laureate to promote poetry in Florida.

Laws across the United States are constantly changing. When you have been accused of committing a crime in Florida, only a Florida Trial Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can provide you with the legal representation that you need. While many attorneys are quick to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a plea bargain instead of pursuing trial, our Florida Criminal Attorneys know that sometimes trial is the best option for your situation. We thoroughly evaluate every case and will always advise you of your best legal defense strategy.

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Two Floridians were caught hiding crack pipes in their bodies last month after police arrested a man and woman in two separate incidents, according to authorities with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

On Aug. 16, a 46-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly swallowed a crack pipe. Fort Pierce police claim jail X-rays confirm the allegations. The man had previously been arrested for possession of crack cocaine on Aug. 1.

Authorities claim that when they confronted the man, he attempted to throw something under a car and then tried hiding something underneath his hat. Police confiscated what was in his hat, which according to the arrest report, tested positive for crack cocaine.

The man was arrested and taken to the St. Lucie County jail. He apparently told authorities he was not hiding any illicit drugs on his person.

However, the police report states that an X-ray showed a crack pipe lodged in the man’s stomach horizontally. The man was taken to the hospital to have the pipe removed.

It is unknown at this time whether or not the man has enlisted the help of an attorney. It should be noted that prosecutors in St. Lucie County take drug charges quite seriously. It is a crime to be in possession of any illegal controlled substances such as cocaine, marijuana, LSD, heroin and methamphetamine. Drug possession laws vary based upon the type of drug and the amount found on the person. Being found in possession of small amounts of a drug may result in “simple” possession charges, whereas being found in possession of large quantities can lead to charges related to drugs sales and distribution.

If you or someone you care for has been arrested on drug charges in Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, the Village of St. Lucie or the surrounding area, a St. Lucie County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can possibly help you avoid a conviction. For a free consultation, contact us today online or call 561-367-8777 to discuss your charges.

crack pipe.jpgIn a separate incident on Aug. 14, jail officials conducting a strip search of a Vero Beach woman apparently found a cocaine pipe hidden in the woman’s vagina, according to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

The 30-year-old was arrested after officers responded to a trespassing complaint at a local Walgreens.

She allegedly told officers she did not have any drugs on her person, but authorities
claim the strip search showed otherwise.

It is not immediately clear if the woman has an attorney. However, it is important to note that Florida drug possession laws also prohibit possessing drug paraphernalia such as crack pipes, syringes and even bongs. This crime can be charged on its own, but usually accompanies other drug possession or drug sale charges. Drug paraphernalia is classified as anything that can be used to help inject, ingest or inhale an illegal drug into the body. In Florida, possession of drug paraphernalia is a first-degree misdemeanor. Even though this crime is not a felony offense, it still carries very serious ramifications, including up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Additionally, the stigma attached to a conviction of this nature can follow you around for the rest of your life making it difficult to find suitable employment and housing.

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere, Indian River Shores or the surrounding areas, an Indian River County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help. Contact us today online or call 561-367-8777 to schedule a meeting for a free case evaluation.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Vero Beach, Florida couple, Richard and Susan Olive, for allegedly raising millions of dollars selling investments for a purported charitable organization while defrauding senior citizens and exaggerating the amount of contributions actually made to charity.

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The SEC complaint, filed in the Southern District of Florida, charges the Olives with aiding and abetting violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws as well as violations of the securities and broker-dealer registration provisions of the federal securities laws.

The SEC complaint against the Olives lays out a scheme where the Olives were hired at We The People Inc., a Tallahassee-based non-profit organization that obtained $75 million from more than 400 investors in Florida, Colorado, and Texas by selling an investment product they described as a charitable gift annuity (CGA). Allegations are that the CGAs issued by We The People differed from legitimately-issued CGAs– namely that they were issued primarily to benefit the Olives and other third-party promoters and consultants. Only a small amount of the money raised was actually directed to charitable services. Meanwhile the Olives received more than $1.1 million in salary and commissions, and they also siphoned away investor funds for their personal use.

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